Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Survivor San Juan Del Sur: Blood v. Water - First Impressions, first boot

Survivor is back for its twenty-ninth season and showing no signs of slowing down.  Right out of the gate, Survivor: San Juan Del Sur Blood v. Water gave us not only the longest title in the series’ history, but an eclectic cast, new twists and enough cringe-worthy moments to be one of the best first episodes in a long time.  From bedimpled host Jeff Probst yelling at one contestant as if she needed to rescue an infant from an avalanche (“Dig, woman!") to a former The Amazing Race alumna repeatedly uttering a homophobic stereotype that would make fellow contestant John Rocker uncomfortable, there was no shortage of drama.   

The episode began with introductions and as this year the eighteen contestants were paired up, we met each couple on a “Day 0” where their goal was to make fire and not make a horrible first impression on the audience.  Some succeeded better than others.  This year’s Barbie and Ken, Jaclyn Scultz and her boyfriend Jon Misch, aka, “Don’t hate us ‘cause we’re beautiful” started out rough.  Telling us the college football hero is dating the beauty queen is not a recipe for developing rapport with the audience, and blinding us with her breasts and his abs and calling yourselves perfect failed to help their cause.  

Former MLB relief pitcher John Rocker came into the game with his own baggage, a decades-old reputation for a serious case of foot-in-mouth disease.  The hate speech-spewing former Atlanta Brave (among other teams) addressed his bad guy image and promised that he was not the bigot we heard from way back when, while his girlfriend Julie McGee addressed her ample bosom and promised that she was not the siliconed sexpot she appeared to be.  While John did a fair job chipping away at his tarnished image, all Julie accomplished was defying gravity and confounding the rules of physics by literally “standing on her own two feet” the entire episode.

It seemed like we wouldn’t get much time with Baylor Wilson and her lookalike mom Missy Payne with all the monkeys gathering overhead, but the two made it to the next day without being eaten.  Their story is that Missy is not a great judge of husbands and Baylor will forgive her because she gave her great genes.  Drew and Alec Christy are also hard to tell apart, siblings with flouncy surfer dude hair and a watered-down Vytas/Aras rivalry. We also met the farmer, Dale Wentworth, and the farmer’s daughter, Kelley, who seem conflict-free until you hear that they didn’t speak for many years.  They are hoping Survivor brings them closer together and even Russell Hantz would have to be rooting for them to accomplish that.

The next couple are Survivor superfans Reed and Josh, both Broadway performers. Hearing Josh Canfield say that boyfriend Reed Kelly once gave him flint as a present and knowing that Reed has survived being Spiderman on stage, which has proved riskier than anything the jungles of Nicaragua will throw at them, makes them my early picks to go very far.  Police officer Val Collins and her husband firefighter Jeremy also make a strong first impression, with her bossing her tall, athletic husband around while wearing her Boston Strong tee.  There is a rivalry there that should be interesting to see play out.

In the middle of the intros, I have a PTSD-style flashback to The Amazing Race where the twinnies, Nadiya and Natalie Anderson, are on my screen and sniping at each other and finishing each other’s…sandwiches…and then I remember that they are here, on my favorite Reality TV show, and I will just have to deal with it.  Until someone creates an app to remove them from whatever show they’ve managed to nag and whine their way onto.   

Next is the obligatory “why don’t we have captions for them” pair of Louisiana firefighters, father and son Keith and Wes Nale.  God love them, that is one hard accent to follow at my advanced age.  They immediately break all stereotypes of southern outdoorsy men by sucking at making a fire.  Kudos, trailblazers, break down those barriers.  I hope they go far, or at least Keith, he of the great soundbites: “You’re about as mentally strong as that rock.” 

With the initial impressions out of the way, it’s time to bring the players together and then break them off into two teams whose names we will never learn and instead default to calling them by buff color.  So we have the yellow and the blue teams meeting for the first time at Hero’s Arena, formerly the site of the Redemption Island battles.  Hallelujah, huzzah, and hurrah, there will be no Redemption Island this year and when Jeff snuffs your torch is stays snuffed.  Instead, Exile Island is back from…exile?  Having last been used in Survivor: Tocatins, it will be interesting to see how the Blood v. Water twist affects the dynamics and strategy of Exile Island.  

The first surprise of the season was the lack of duplicity.  Jeff asks the assembled players about their first night on the island and their success with the flint, and no one lied?  What show are they on?  You either lie and say you made fire, to look like an asset to your future team, or you lie about not making fire to hide your strength.  But telling people the truth, it’s like I don’t even know you people.

Once the two tribes are formed, some find it hard to separate their relationships from the game, others say bring it on.  Jeremy in particular is struggling with playing against the love of his life; his wife Val looks like she doesn’t even recognize him as the father of her two children.  Someone is in game mode! Yet it’s Jeremy who ends up trouncing Val in the first luxury duel of the season (despite Jeff's shouting at her to "dig deep, woman!"), sending her to Exile Island in the process.  He does, however, make a savvy move in sending Keith to accompany her.  An older, outdoorsy, not terribly attractive guy is always an ideal candidate for two secluded nights on an island with your wife.

Less savvy was Jeremy’s early alliance building. While alliances are the backbone of the show, you can play too hard too early and without all the information you really need, so his paternalistic approach to bringing all the women in under his protection may not prove successful in the long run.  But he certainly wins for fastest alliance as he brings Kelley, Natalie, and Missy onto his side, humbly and not at all sexistly telling us that all the girls want to hang with the prom king.  Honorable mention in this segment to the thrice-divorced Missy talking about trusting her gut instincts when it comes to men and the cameraman taping her not busting out into raucous laughter..

While the focus on the blue team is in forming bonds, the yellow team is working on their shelter and trying to start a fire.  There are three super young kids – Alec, Baylor and Wes – the late twenty-early thirties group (who would be the Geritol set on this year’s Big Brother) and one actually old person. Dale, at 62, is by far the senior member of the tribe and he’s instantly on the outs due to his age and his lack of experience hanging with large groups. But he makes a statement by breaking his reading glasses in half, stacking one lens atop the other, and using them to start a fire, moving from gramps to bad ass.

The Delusional Castaway award goes to Drew who thinks he’s recognizable because he did some modeling and who thinks his efforts at “levitating” a shelter will make him the alpha male in a tribe that boasts two firemen, a former college football star and the girlfriend of a ex-big league player.  No one is impressed with your construction skills, Spicoli.  Runner up is John Rocker who thought he could go incognito at over seven feet tall and with that John Rocker-ish face.  It takes no time at all for the Louisiana duo to recognize and out him.

After taking an instant dislike to pretty-boy Jon, I’m sucker punched with the story that his father was recently diagnosed with an incurable tumor and I now feel like the worst person ever and want only good things for him from here on out.  I should have listened to the twinnies warn about judging books by their covers, but I’ve been trained after two TARs not to listen to anything they say.  

The first immunity challenge is a combination of teamwork, strength, and smarts and ultimately the team better at figuring out the complicated puzzle comes out on top.  Nerds around the world, rejoice!  Still, it was impressive seeing the sheer determination and physicality of the losing yellow team as they grabbed and threw players up and over the obstacle like rag dolls and it is more likely that the weaker ones will still be blamed for the loss. 

Scrambling before the first visit to tribal council should involve just one strategy, the infamous "anyone but me" that brought Sandra Diaz two Survivor victories.  Your goal should be to lay low, deflect attention and find any excuse to target anyone but you.  So what does Nadiya manage to do?  She draws attention to herself and paints herself as an easy target.  There was Dale, all old and not fitting in and did I mention old and he would have been the most likely first victim.  Even Val had problems going in as she had spent days away from her tribe, potentially bonding with someone from the other team while not having the chance to build a relationship with her tribe.  

So all Nadiya had to do was keep her mouth shut...who am I kidding?  She wouldn't have been cast for a third stint on a Reality TV show if she could control her tongue.  So she starts talking, mistake number one.  But then she says that she wants to join with Josh because, as a gay man, he's just like one of the girls. She says that not once, but three separate times.  

Meanwhile, Dale has figured out that he's the low man on the totem pole so he can't just sit back and watch what happens.  He needs to give his teammates another name to consider and he just happens to stumble across the perfect person.  Nadiya.  He reminds them of her cut throat gameplay on the Amazing Race and that is enough to give the guys a reason to focus on someone.  Still, she's more physically fit than Dale and less of a liability to their game and should withstand this attack, as long as she can keep her... well, you know..

Baylor had taken Josh aside earlier in the day and told him that she wanted to vote with him in a secret side alliance.  She tells him that the girls want Dale out, he knows that the guys want to vote out Nadiya and as a Survivor superfan he knows not to give a soundbite that says as the swing vote he's in the best position because that is the last quote from you they'll use just before your blindside.  So we get to tribal and it's clearly between the old guy and the twin and it looks like it's up to Josh who will go.  

We're reminded that tribal council may be a set, but it is in an actual jungle and not the CBS lot when the usually unflappable Jeff clearly flinches at the sounds the neighborhood monkeys are making as they plan their attack. But he quickly regroups and starts grilling the tribe on their first three days.  Val feels on the outs because of her stint on Exile Island, Dale reminds everyone that he made fire, saved the day, rescued puppies, brought forth life and saved them from extinction, and Nadiya discusses how they're one big happy family.  Notice Josh wince when he hears that. 

After some prodding, Wes spills that there is a tight three guy alliance, that because of his age Dale is not it in, and that Josh has a unique position as the best liked person in the tribe.  As he goes on to describe how adept Josh is at empathizing and sympathizing, Nadiya chimes in her agreement.  But then she has to add that Josh is so good at this because he's just one of the girls.  When Jeff either 1) tries to give her an out or 2) gives her a bigger shovel so she can dig herself a deeper hole by asking her if she's saying this because Josh is gay, Nadiya says yes!  She wouldn't call any of the straight guys "girlfriend."  And John Rocker says a special prayer to the PR gods in the sky thanking them for giving him the chance not to look like the most bigoted person this season.

The castaways go vote, Jeff "tallies," and Nadiya is sent packing.  The only mystery remaining is who voted for poor Baylor?  She was on no one's radar and didn't seem to do anything wrong.  During the credits, we see that it was Josh!  Baylor had broken with the girl's alliance and voted for Nadiya (no doubt as Josh told her to), but then he switched his vote.  Next week we'll see if there's any blowback from the wonky vote, whether there was any strategy behind it, and how the alliances look after the vote.  But by far the most emotional moment will be when Natalie learns that her twinnie is gone and that they'll be apart for the longest time in their lives if she makes it to the end.  Will she want to continue without her sister, who will finish her sandwiches in her sister's absence, and will John fill the bigot vacuum?  Tune in next time for Survivor. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mad Men Season 2, Episode 12: The Mountain King

WDon Draper is still AWOL, alone in California having abandoned the mess of his marriage back in New York and leaving Pete Campbell to represent the company by himself at the aerospace convention in Los Angeles.  The mystery of who Don called at the end of the last episode, and who knows him as Dick Whitman, has been answered.  Here in California, far away from the life he has created in New York, Don is close to being able to be himself - if he even knows what that means anymore.  Don may have run away from his problems, as is his wont, but it looks like he ran towards a place of safety where he could maybe get some answers and find a new direction.

But back home, not all is well.  Sally is defiant and angry without her father around and blames Betty for everything.  For once, Betty seems somewhat sympathetic towards her daughter, realizing how the uncertainty and loss could upset the children.  In a rare show of affection, she tries to help Sally through this, even buying her the boots she's been wanting.  But none of this softens her opinion about Don and he is still not welcome home.  To be frank, she doesn't see much difference in her life now compared to when she was living with the constantly unavailable Don.

She calls her "friend" and former riding buddy Sarah Beth to ask her about boarding school for the defiant Sally and during the conversation he finds out that Sarah Beth followed through with the handsome young Arthur after that lunch that Betty had set up.  Betty wants to be bad, wants to explore the dark side that Don has been living in, but couldn't bring herself to doing it.  So she lived vicariously through her "friend."  Sarah realizes how she was used - too late - and how manipulative and evil pretty blonde Betty truly is.

Sterling Cooper is also continuing in his absence, but here a coup is underway that will blindside Don.  Duck Phillips is working to take over as president of a new Sterling Cooper after a merger with the London-based Putnam, Powell, and Lowe.  He has waved a lot of money in front of the partners (one of who, Roger, is in the midst of what will likely be an expensive divorce) and they are blinded by their greed.  None care about the direction of the firm or what being controlled by a British agency means to them and this works in power-hungry Duck's favor.

But the heart of the episode is learning more about Don/Dick's relationship with Anna Draper.  We wondered at the end of the Season 2 opener who Don was sending the book to and now we know.  He met Anna when he was a used car salesman after the war and she had tracked down her husband.  Only, it wasn't her husband but someone using his name and identity.  Rather than turning him in, she befriended him and they became very important in each other's lives.

The episode is a mixed bag for Pete Campbell, triumphant in his return from the West Coast   On the one hand, he and Trudy butt heads over her plan that they look into adoption.  His objection to her idea causes his father-in-law to come to Trudy's defense and retaliate against Pete by pulling the Clearasil account from the agency.  But Pete weathers this adversity thanks to Duck and his ulterior motives.  He promises to promote Pete despite this setback once he's the new sheriff in town.  Again, all this is going on in Don's absence, since he's busy figuratively and literally letting his hair down across the country.

Peggy is on a roll without Don at the office.  She pitches the Popsicle account and nails it.  Emboldened by her success, and aggravated that her office space is shared with the Xerox machine, she asks Roger for Freddy Rumsen's office (the one right next to Don).  She gets it, because she deserves it and was the only copywriter with the balls to ask for it.  The other men in the office are shocked and appalled that she has moved up so fast and is getting the outward signs of her new position while they are still too timid to ask for what they want.

Joan and her doctor fiance are in bed and Greg is tired, so Joan takes the lead and starts to seduce him.  He says stop and she stops. Greg is not interested and then goes on to make some allusions to the fact that Joan is way more experienced sexually and he doesn't like being reminded that she's a sexual being with a past.  It is sexist and demeaning but Joan brushes it off thinking he's just jealous of her past lovers.  She continues to be try and heat things up.  He says stop, and she stops.  Because that's what civilized people do.

The next day, he comes by her office and meets Roger and picks up on the vibe that passes between them (assuming Joan had not mentioned Roger as anything other than a boss).  Greg asks Joan to fix him a drink and they go into Don's office.  Now Greg isn't so tired, now he wants sex.  In her boss' office, right under the nose of her ex-lover, Roger.  She says stop, and he stops forces himself on her, against her will.  He rapes Joan and, whether it's the era, or her concern about her future, or something else, Joan endures it, then smooths out her skirt, and goes off to dinner.  It's shocking to us in so many ways, not the least of which is we're so used to Joan being strong and in control and taking shit from no one.  Knowing that she feels that at her age she has no choice but to stay with someone like that is tragic.

Don is transformed when he's with Anna.  He looks different, sounds different.  He's relax and himself, whoever that really is.  While walking home from the store, he stops by to chat with some guys refurbishing cars and he asks them about finding work.  Is Don thinking of shedding his old life and starting over as Dick?  Anna takes out her Tarot cards, because it's the sixties and that's what we did, and she tells Don some mumbo jumbo about how the only barrier to his happiness is the belief he is alone. But isn't he?  Since he can never share his true self with anyone and keeps everyone at a distance, how can he ever feel loved and connected.  She tells him he can change but - pointing to one of the major themes of the series - Don maintains that people don't change. 

Big changes are going on at Sterling Draper, all while Don is - for the second time in his life - AWOL. He has disappeared, without a word, and adopted a new (albeit old) identity.  This is what he does.  As easily as he changes his wardrobe, the preternaturally poised Cary Grant-like Dond Draper becomes casual Everyman Dick Whitman. 

While Don escapes into his alter ego, his wife has lost interest in their marriage, the company is sold, the partners are richer, Peggy is moving up as is Pete (even without his father-in-law's company) and Duck is making his biggest move yet.   Don has to figure out who he is, what he wants, and how to get it, before the choices are out of his hands.

He walks into the crashing waves of the Pacific and as the water breaks over him he is baptized.  


The musical piece Anna's student is playing Edvard Greig's "In the Hall of the Mountain King," which also gave this episode its title.  it was inspired by Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt, which asks the question "if you lie; are you real?"  The young boy is played by another of creator Matthew Weiner's sons (his other son plays Glenn).

Some rare clues into the mysterious Bert Cooper, thanks to the appearance of amusingly named sister Alice (who has an unseen "companion" named Florence).  Bert was married and his wife introduced Roger and Mona? He has a place in Montana, with cattle? He "ruined" some poor architect's life.  He was a disappointment to his mother and he feels paternal towards Roger.

Look how Don first described Betty to Anna -  She's so beautiful and happy.  I just like the way she laughs, and the way she looks at me. It's so sad to think none of that was enough for Don and he had to ruin it with his infidelity and other lies. 

The Popsicle pitch leads to one of Peggy's early successes on her own (without Don's help) and yet she is clearly taking a page from his sentimental/nostalgic book with that homespun idea.

On the TV in the background when Joan was in bed with Greg was the movie "The Day the Earth Stood Still" with Pete.  Movie trivia, Jon Hamm costarred in the 2008 remake of that movie.  I watched it and let me save  you from wasting 104 minutes of your life.  If you're a Jon Hamm fan, watch his multi-episode turns on 30 Rock, Young Doctor's Notebook or Children's Hospital, skip this movie.

Roger greets Bert's sister Alice with two lines from a poem by A.A.Milne (the creator of Winnie the Pooh): "They're changing the guard at Buckingham Palace.  Christopher Robin went down with Alice." He then adds, "best babysitter in the world," so maybe Alice had watched a young Roger and read him that poem.  She seemed impressed he remembered it.

Don fixes Anna's chair and we're reminded of the wobbly chair at the Draper residence that he didn't fix that, in a show of frustration and anger, Betty broke into pieces as shattered as their marriage.  In California, with Anna, as "himself," he has time to be helpful, but Don Draper is never available, certainly not to Betty.

The choices women have are laid out in startling contrast.  There is Joan, the dutiful girl, extolling the virtues of her handsome doctor-fiance, going on about her wedding day.  Let's just ignore that he's an abusive bully.  Then there's Peggy, the hardworking girl, with her new office, soon to have her name on the door.  But she's alone with her success.  See, ladies, you can't have it all.

Ken talks about making their own ice cream in Vermont.  Wonder if he knew Ben and/or Jerry. 

Joan says she's been working at SC for 9 years. 


Sally: You're mean.
Betty: You betcha. Get in there.
Sally: I'm telling Daddy when he gets home.
Betty: Go ahead.
Sally: He left because you're stupid and mean.

Peggy: Let me tell you something. The Catholic Church knows how to sell things. 

Alice:  To think that Mother thought you were a failure.
Bert: She made me who I am.

Alice:  Let Roger Sterling have what he always wanted -- to die in the arms of a 20-year-old.

Alice:  The truth is you don't want to retire, and I hate to say this, Bertram, but you are old-- older than me. I can't even imagine what that must be like.
Bert: Charming. 

Bert: You can't trust the Brits. 

Don:  They thought I was him and he was me. I didn't think I was hurting anyone.
Anna:  I can't believe it.
Don:  I just had to get out of there.

Anna: What is your name?
Don:  Dick Whitman.
Anna:  Well, Dick, what do I do with you?

Pete:  Hell's bells, Trudy!

Anna:   You like the porch? You paid for it.

Anna: I always felt that we met so that both of our lives could be better. That's just how it is between us.
Don: I ruined everything. My family, my wife, my kids.
Anna:  I'm sure that's not true.

Anna:  You love her. You don't have to tell her everything.   I'm sure there are things about her you don't know. 

Don:  I have been watching my life.  It's right there.  I keep scratching at it, trying to get into it.  But I can't.

Roger:  Did you get the same thing in your stocking last night that I did?
Bert:  What are you talking about?
Roger: Putnam, Powell & Lowe has offered to put a lot of marmalade on your toast.

Bert: I don't like being in the position of having to sell off my life's work because you have an increase in overhead. 

Roger:   We can still come to work in our building, in our offices, only there'll be diamonds on the doorknobs.

Tom: Every good businessman knows that, if his wife's unhappy, his work suffers.
Pete:  Yes, they seem very directly related in this case.  Don't they, Tom?
Tom:  Trudy's happiness should be your first priority.

Pete: You know what? I was in love with Trudy when I met her. And then you stuck your nose in, put these ideas in her mind, and made her unhappy.
Tom: What do you mean, you were in love with her?
Tom: That's not what I meant, and you know it.

Anna: Look at you.  You're in the lavender haze. 

Joan: Greg, stop that.  You know there's no before.

Ken:  Has anyone heard from Draper?
Joan: Yes he called. He wants you to get back to work. 

Betty. Someday you'll want something and I won't be able to give it to you. 

Don: That can't be good.  
Anna: It is. 
Don. It's the end of the world. 
Anna: It's the resurrection. 

Anna: You are part of the world. The air, water, every living thing is connected to you. ...  It means the only thing keeping you from being happy is the belief that you are alone.
Don: What if that's true?
Anna: Then you can change.
Don: People don't change.

Pete:  Don'll dance on my grave, if he ever comes back.


Betty catches Sally smoking and punishes her.  By Season 7, Sally is not only still smoking, but she does it with an affectation that is eerily similar to Betty's pose.

At the end of the partners' meeting, Alice tells Roger he needs to take care of his children. He says he only has one, and she looks at him oddly and says, "Really?"  Roger looks confused.  Now, it might be a jape at the young age of his new girlfriend, but by the end of the series Roger does in fact have another child.

Pete does get the Clearasil account back later when Sterling Cooper merges with Cutler, Gleason and Chaough.

Greg's sexual abuse of Joan is never directly mentioned again, yet it hangs over their unfortunate relationship.  She continues the charade of love and marriage because at her age in that time period, she felt she had no other options.  But her growth and increased strength over the years lead to her dumping Greg and being a confident single mother (of Roger's, not Greg's, child).

Roger thought the merger, and the payoff, would bring him happiness.  He thought Jane would bring him happiness.  He later learns that there is more to life than money and a young honey.  Whether it's the acid he dropped or something else, he awakens to realize he really did love Mona and that he was never the leader of his company he should have been.  The question left hanging at the end of Season 7a is whether he can fix these problems.  He takes a strong stance in the firm, yet his love life is still up in the air.

Pete says, of Burt Peterson, why doesn't he die already.  Burt doesn't die but he does get fired - many times.  

Betty talks about maybe sending Sally to boarding school, because of her acting out.  In season 4 Sally's acting out continues and she's sent to a child psychiatrist.  Later she does go to boarding school as well. 

Don escapes to California again in Season 4 and Season 7. He changes when he's there, dropping some of the Don Draper persona and becoming more relaxed and comfortable. He views California as his own Shangri-La - or at least the place to run to when he's running away.   

Peggy was successful selling the ritual of eating and sharing a Poosocle, but was less successful in Season 4 selling the ritual of applying Ponds Cold Cream. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Why I Hate Derrick's Big Brother Game, Part Two

Thirty-year-old Central Falls, Rhode Island, police sergeant and former undercover cop Derrick Levasseur is only days away from clinching a $550,000+ payday in Big Brother 16. He is nearly unanimously considered to have played a masterful game full of the kind of lies and manipulations to make former winners including Dan Gheesling and Evel Dick Donato take notice.  He has maneuvered his way through numerous alliances never having his integrity or honesty challenged.  He is the good guy, the husband and father, who loves the game and is playing to better the life of his family.

At least, that's the Derrick he has been in the Big Brother house. That Derrick - a mild mannered Parks and Rec coordinator - does not lie, misrepresent, bear false witness, hedge, slander, malign, break trust, or otherwise play a dirty game.  He is such a nice guy - defending the abused, speaking up for the little guy, so soft spoken and calm.  His only job in the house is to keep the peace, be your friend, and help you win the game. Frankie may be playing for kids in Africa, but Derrick is the real giver. You could not ask for a better partner. 

Just ask the remaining houseguests.  They are all so excited that the alliance they created with Derrick week one is still going strong.  Derrick has Cody Calafiore's back.  They have a final two deal to the end.  He has Frankie Grande's back.  They have a Team America/final two deal.  He has Victoria Rafaeli's back.  They have a final two deal.  Caleb Reyolds and Derrick, they'll be sitting side by side at the end.  Final two! Now, I haven't taken math for some time, but four separate final two deals would appear hard to pull off.  But not for "Dad-bot" - everyone's favorite dad.

Derrick is the perfect person to take to the end.  He hasn't won many challenges, he hasn't made any moves and he's loyal as hell. Just ask him.  He'll tell you what a poor game he's played and how he doesn't stand a chance against you in the final two.  But that's okay with Derrick. He's happy with the $50,000 second place prize money.  That'll put enough food in his daughter's mouth.  What do you mean and the $5,000 that he won in the HOH endurance comp?  Oh that.  Well the other houseguests are so much bigger and stronger and better than him, he'd say, he didn't stand a chance of winning that snowman challenge.  He had no choice but to take the money to put food in his daughter's mouth.  Now, Victoria didn't stand a chance of winning that HOH either, and she could have gone for the money.  But she wouldn't think of depriving Derrick of the prize money so he could put food in his daughter's mouth.  That wouldn't be fair.  I'm sure if she could have, she would have scooped her water into his container to help him win.

No, Derrick has played a flawless game.  He's everywhere orchestrating everything that happens in the house.  Make sure to point out how unpredictable Zach is.  Make sure to keep Cody and Victoria from checking notes.  Make sure Caleb is not alone with Frankie.  Make sure Nicole doesn't talk to anyone.  Isolate Donny, play up Hayden's threat, pull Cody away from Christine.  He is thinking 24/7 of who stands in his way and how to get them out.  It has been amazing to watch. 

So why am I now devoting another post to why Derrick's game makes me want to hurl?  Amid all the accolades and benedictions that will rain down on him after his coronation, there should be a fact checker. Someone (besides this guy's tweets) to point out that this greatest game of all time is actually the dirtiest ever played on Big Brother and to question whether winning as ugly as Derrick is about to is really worth the money.  

Derrick didn't just lie about his alliances and his final 8-7-6-5-4-3-2 deals (aka normal BB lies) he lied to us about his motivations, his strategy, his feelings.  In the Diary Room, with a straight face, he would tell us that he wants to save Donny or he wants to carry out a Team America challenge, when live feeders know both are flat out lies.  Why lie to the viewers, how does that help you win the game?  His lies go beyond the game to lies about his fellow houseguests.  Some of these lies were personal - not game - in nature, some might be considered slanderous outside of a game setting.  He also played with the emotions of some young, vulnerable people who, unlike him, are not trained and skilled in adopting a new identity, lying, infiltrating, and manipulating. He used his expertise in undercover work with surgical precision to break down houseguest after houseguest until they were not just evicted but emotionally eviscerated.  

Case in point: how Derrick helped hurt recent college grad Zach Rance's reputation in the house.  Zach had a very tight alliance with Frankie, one of the few alpha males in the house who posed a serious threat to Derrick's game plan.  A close alliance between two strong and intelligent players - one of whom he was with in Team America - could undermine Derrick's plan.  Zach also was close with houseguests outside of Derrick's main alliance (Donny Thompson, Hayden Voss, and Nicole Franzel) who he viewed as a threat.  He needed Frankie (and the rest of the larger former Bomb Squad now Detanator alliance) to turn on Zach.  Frankie and Zach were in the midst of an epic bro-showmance and could not have been closer.  How could he drive a wedge?

Make up lies about Zach.  When Zach wanted to shake up the game the week Cody was HOH, Derrick decided that Zach's unpredictability was a liability.  He had to undermine him.  So he told Cody - then one of Zach's closest friends in the house - that Zach was the saboteur and that he was getting $50,000 to f*ck with the house. (7/20 11:55)  He said Zach mistreated women in the house, jumping on a lie he heard from former Zach ally Frankie and running with it.  He spread this story around until it became gospel and Zach's "I hate Victoria" became Zach is abusive towards women. He said Zach was the saboteur again after Team America carried out the mission to hide houseguest's personal items.  He preyed on Zach's Liberal heart, telling him that his actions were literally taking food out of Derrick's daughter's mouth (8/10 3:04 am).

Derrick claimed Zach was so abusive toward Victoria that if he said the same things outside of the house he would have knocked his f*cking teeth out.  What had Zach said? That she was demanding and yelling at people to do things for her, that he didn't think Victoria really ran her own photography company and that she wasn't smart.  For the record, Derrick was the first to say that Victoria was not intelligent and he and Frankie both agreed she was demanding (8/5 4:06am).

The entire conversation about Victoria is on Camera 3 from 4:01 - 4:21 am on 8/5 and if you watch it, you'll see how Zach actually knew more about Victoria, had talked to her and paid attention to her life story, compared with her "friend" Derrick.  You'll see that his issue with her was finding her dependent and privileged.  But Derrick managed later to twist this conversation into proof that Zach was a bad guy who he would have to beat up outside the house for what he said.  As soon as Zach left, Derrick told Cody that if Victoria was his daughter, he'd "break his f*cking jaw."  Yet, after Cody said to Derrick that Victoria she wasn't that dumb, DERRICK argued with Cody saying, "she's not that bright."  So, it was okay for Derrick to call her "not that bright" and to say that he only has to put up with her for a few more weeks, but not for Zach to.  How will Victoria feel when she hears that her biggest friend, closest ally said that? 

Derrick also told Nicole that Zach treats women horribly and has disrespected her.  What had Zach done?  Teased her about being a have not, being a jerk about being able to eat regular food when she couldn't.  Juvenile, immature, but disrespectful??  Derrick was the one behind the plan to isolate Nicole after her closest ally Hayden was eliminated from the game and make sure she never spent time alone with anyone with whom she might ally.  After Nicole came back into the game, only to again find herself on the block, she was finally figuring out the truth about Derrick and his alliance with Cody and his alliance with Victoria, among other things.  On the block, on slop, in tears, Derrick came over and spoke with the vulnerable Nicolle.  He told her she was wrong to question him and would realize how wrong she was after she saw the show and would owe him an apology.  (9/3 10:43)
Nicole:  I trusted you.  I feel like everything I tell you definitely gets back to Cody ... that is why I was upset yesterday and just slept.
Derrick :  Look at me real quick.. I’m going to tell you straight up and I haven't said this all season if that is what you feel you are going to look really dumb on camera.. look at me real quick.. you are going to look really dumb on camera if you that.  If you think 90% of what you just said is true..... I expect a text message apology
Derrick told Victoria that he was disappointed in her for not coming to him after she heard from Zach about the Bomb Squad alliance (that Derrick had kept from her).  By the end of their talk, Victoria was apologizing to him for not trusting him (even though he was lying) and taking the word of "the biggest liar in the house" (Zach, who was telling the truth about the alliance). Victoria was crying and Derrick acted hurt and betrayed, breaking her down even more. (8/9 4-5pm) 

Again, I get that lying is part of Big Brother, a big part.  But there is something more insidious about a 30-year-old father, talking to a 22-year-old girl, telling her that everything she's put together based on the facts in front of her is not true, that thinking it's true makes her look dumb, and she's going to owe him an apology.  There is something worse about him telling another 22-year-old girl that she hurt his feelings and betrayed him by questioning his veracity, when he has been lying to her from day one.  If you don't see a subtle difference between clever gamesmanship and abusive, gaslighting-style manipulation, then maybe you love Derrick's game.  I don't. 

Derrick's "anything goes" attitude makes sense for him at work where the greater good is preventing a crime, catching a perpetrator, or saving his own life.  But that type of morally-bankrupt, unethical, win-at-all-costs approach has no place on what is in the end just a silly game show. Derrick is not owed the prize money and in a civilized society, even one that gets enjoyment from reality TV shows designed to show people at their most deceitful, we should at least question whether there are or should be any limits to how far someone will lower themselves just for a big payday.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Zach Rance for America's Favorite Houseguest


On Big Brother, America's Favorite Houseguest is a coveted consolation prize. Usually it goes to the person who didn't win the grand prize, but to the houseguest who won a different prize - the hearts of America. It's the first chance for the fans of the show to let the houseguests know what we really think of them. We've watched their gameplay, their Diary Room sessions, their late night chats, their unguarded moments, their social game, their highs and lows, and after all that there is one person who captured our imagination. The one player who defines that season.  The player without whom the season would have been not as watchable.  It's our first chance to let the houseguests know, after being locked away for some 90 days, who has made the greatest impact on the fans. Who is the one we love the most. Is there any question that for Big Brother 16 that person is Zach Rance?

Quick. Think of your favorite moments from the season.  Was it one of Zach's poems? Was it one of his Diary Room sessions?  His twerking? His broshowmance with Frankie? His heart-to-heart talks with other houseguests?  Was it how he was the only player to learn about his fellow houseguests, who could name all their family members her and remember every detail of their life stories? His energy, enthusiasm and love of life?  His desire to shake things up, make something happen, entertain us?  The fact that in a game full of lying and deception he turned out to be the most real person in the house.  He tried to act the bully, tried to be the bad guy, but couldn't hide the fact that he's just a sweet kid.

This season has been for the most part boring and predictable.  Unanimous votes and sheep lining up to be slaughtered as the dullest winner in Big Brother history moves his chess pieces around to guarantee his inevitable win. Without ZachAttack's volatility, unpredictability and showmanship this season would have gone down as the most tedious, uninteresting ever. But we were blessed with the most watchable houseguest the show has ever cast. Funny, lovable, roguish, outrageous, raw, and unfiltered, Zach was the real star of BB16.

We have from now until Monday, Sept 22nd at 9:59am PT.to vote, up to 20 times per day, for Zach to be this season's Favorite Houseguest and take home the $25,000 prize. He not only entertained us and always kept in mind that he was on a TV show and there to make things exciting for us, he was also used by Team America to complete three of their missions, for a tidy sum that he shared none of.   Let's send a clear message to everyone who was part of Big Brother 16. This was the season of the Zach Attack.  He won not the $500,000 but something more valuable, he learned that he could be himself in all his outrageous and compelling glory and that America would love what they saw and want to see more.


Need more proof, check out these fan videos:

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Is Big Brother 16's Derrick Playing a Dirty Game or Does "Anything Go?"

If you're a Reality TV fan, you remember when Johnny Fairplay's grandma died on Survivor: Pearl Islands. Or, more accurately, you recall when he used her fake death to try and engender sympathy from the tribe and buy him more days on the island. While the move failed to get Johnny to the end, it did get him hugs, a reward challenge gift, and a place atop the Pantheon of reality TV baddies.

That wasn't the first lie in a reality TV show and it certainly hasn't been the last. Some lie to create a sympathetic character.  On Big Brother 12, contestant Matt Hoffman told his fellow houseguests that his young wife had a rare bone disease that only "affects one in a million.”  Russell Hantz told Survivor: Samoa castaways that he had lived through the Katrina disaster in his native New Orleans.  Others lie about their former brushes with fame, fearing it might seem they don't need the prize money.  Child actress Lisa Whelchel joined former major leaguer Jeff Kent in hiding their past professions from their Survivor: Philippines castmates.

This past season of Survivor: Cagayan, police officer Tony Vlachos decided not to share his job with his fellow island inhabitants, including fellow officer Sarah Lacina.  He claimed he was a construction worked, even when Sarah confronted him on obviously being a cop.  This turned into a million dollar strategy when he was overwhelmingly voted the winner.  Central Falls Rhode Island police sergeant Derrick Levasseur watched Tony's successful strategy before embarking on his three month Big Brother adventure this summer.  He decided to follow a similar strategy and hide his police background - which included a three year stint as an undercover officer - from the rest of the cast. 

This year's Big Brother cast has its share of liars.  Caleb Reynolds has been so proficient in spinning stories about  himself while in the house that a compendium of his questionable assertions has been put together in this blog.  Frankie Grande lied about his age (he's 31, not 28) and omitted that he was a "social media mogul" with a famous little sister (Ariana Grande) until his game was in jeopardy.  Zach Rance lied about hating everyone and being a villain.  Victoria Rafaeli lied about playing Big Brother (couldn't resist).  But the biggest lie this year has been the true identify of that mild mannered Parks and Recs coordinator and new daddy Derrick - a police sergeant and former undercover officer.  In fact, this - that Derrick has three years experience working undercover - may be the biggest lie that anyone has told in the Big Brother house.  It certainly is the one with the most consequences.

Why does this lie stand out among the others?  Because, by the very nature of his training and experience as an undercover cop, he is uniquely suited for lying to and manipulating other people.  I wrote this more detailed discussion in how an undercover cop's skills are uniquely suited for Big Brother success HERE.  He has power over the minds and hearts of the other houseguests unlike anything I've ever seen before and, while many are blaming the gullibility on the houseguest, it's hard not to point the finger at Sgt. Levasseur.  While he was working undercover, it is conceivable that his very life depended on his ability to gain trust and confidence.  No thespian taking the stage ever has at much at stake.

Derrick is a 30-years-old father with ten years on the police force including three working undercover. The houseguests on whom he has most effectively used his skills are 22 year old girls, Nicole Franzel and Victoria.  When Nicole became suspicious of Derrick, telling him she was convinced that anything she says to him gets back to Cody (which is true), Derrick responded, "If that’s truly what you feel, you’re going to look really dumb on camera if you think that."  He then uses a typical mind control technique.  "Look at me," he tells her. Firmly.  "Look at me."  He tells her over and over that she's not only wrong, but is going to look stupid if she continues thinking he's allied with Cody.  "You'll see," he tells her, adding, that she will owe him a text apology when she sees the feeds and realizes how wrong she was.

Now, great lie. Strong, convincing, unequivocal.  Nicole believes him and crumbles into tears that she ever doubted her one true friend.  The most trustworthy person in the house.  Will I have to hand in my reality TV fan card if I tell you that this exchange made me sick to my stomach?  Watch it here and tell him if it doesn't make you question the ethics of Derrick's gameplay.

There is something about the way that Derrick plays with his fellow houseguests' weaknesses and vulnerabilities, how he convinces them he is their best friend and the only person they can trust, something about how morally outraged he becomes at any suggestion that he's not the nicest guy on the planet that rubs me raw.  It's not just how he lies so easily, but how easily he makes the other person convinced that they are the bad guys for even questioning him.

Two weeks earlier, Derrick did his mind-control misting shtick on Victoria.  When Zach told her that Derrick was in a large alliance, she was shocked and hurt to the core.  Eventually, Derrick confronted her about what she heard.  He told her it was a complete lie, that he had no alliance with anyone.  If he had an alliance with anyone it would be with her, he said.  Derrick had lied to Victoria from day one about his allegiances and yet managed to mist her into believing that he was completely honest with her.

As recently as last night, as he was convincing Victoria to pretend to hate him so the remaining houseguests would think he doesn't have her vote, Derrick reaffirmed that he has always had her back. Innocent lies/half truths, you might say.  Yes, technically, Derrick has had Victoria's back up to a point - he wanted to keep her as long as possible because he knew she would never, ever, ever vote him out.  But their alliance is all for his benefit, not hers.  He doesn't even have to give her his vote this week!  Instead, he has convinced her that voting her out is best for him and that she should support this.  And she does, to the point that she has said repeatedly that she wants Derrick to win more than she wants to win.

Again, you might argue that is good gameplay.  But then Derrick said of Victoria:  "I am one of the few people that defends that girl she was crying.. I have a daughter I’m not going to make that girl look like a fool."  And that's where he crosses the line for me.  His mind control is making Victoria look like a stupid, lovesick lemming.  A fool. And it doesn't seem to bother him at all.

Derrick has this young girl, who is clearly smitten with him (and she has mentioned repeatedly that she's attracted to older men), wrapped around his finger.  She would do anything for him.  She is his plaything, a Playdoh creation he can mold and pose in any position he chooses.  He has her wanting him to win more than she wants herself to win.  Her remaining goal is not to stay in the house, but to guarantee his win.

Play dirty, play hard, that's how you win.  I get it.  But this year, watching Derrick Gaslight these young, vulnerable girls into believing that they are wrong, crazy, uncaring, heartless, I'm not so sure I can justify winning at any cost.  I no longer feel comfortable watching someone - a father to a young girl - win by playing with these girls' emotions.  By manipulating them and then telling them you're doing it for their own good, because you're honest and trustworthy and look at them like someone's daughter,  you've crossed some imaginary line in my mind.

Derrick's infamous accusation to fellow alliance member Zach that he was "literally taking food out of [his] daughter's mouth" is the kind of amped-up manipulation that people point to as him playing a dirty game.  I disagree.  That was a low blow, but it was a smart one and fully within the bounds of good manipulative strategy.  But the way he isolates these young girls, befriends them, develops their trust, causes them to distance themselves from anyone else, manipulates their feelings, causes them to question their sanity and challenges them when they don't follow his game play makes me question whether anything goes in a reality TV game show.  That is going a little too far in my book.

Are there any boundaries; should there be any limits?  Or is all's fair in love and Big Brother?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Big Brother 16's Frankie Grande is not the Anti-Christ

It pains me to have to write a blog post that is in any way supportive of Frankie J. "Look at me, notice me" Grande.  His "I'm Ariana Grande's brother so worship me" schtick was old about thirty seconds into it and the preening 31-year-old has worn out his welcome on my and many millions of TV screens.  He's self-absorbed, narcissistic, delusional, and catty.  But he's not Satan, he's not a contender for Keith Olberman's "Worst Person Ever," and he's not deserving of the explosively negative reaction now taking over the Big Brother 16 Twitter timelines.

Here's the story.  As any fan of this season knows, Frankie is not just a dancer/former Broadway performer, YouTuber, and Famous Adjacent Dude*, he's also a philanthropist.  He is part of two different charities doing work in Africa - Broadway in South Africa and Build On.  Despite what his detractors want to think, both are legitimate charities and both have raised money to help people in disadvantaged countries.  Whether you think the money is spent wisely, or whether there are more "deserving" charities, there is no dispute that they are real, raise money, and try and do some good. 

Before one of Frankie's trips to South Africa, he apparently posted the following about his experience at the airport as he tried to catch his flight.  As anyone who has ever flown knows, getting through the airport can be frustrating to say the least.  You have to maneuver through a maze of check points, avoiding squalling children and pieces of luggage larger than a water buffalo, strip down to your undies hoping to retrieve all of the belongings you jettisoned to make it through security only to find your plane has changed gates, has mechanical problems, or was rerouted to Guam.  With that backdrop, Frankie wrote the following:

I read that as funny and relatable.  Frankie has a way of describing things that is actually pretty funny.  And the juxtaposition of going off to do charity work while simultaneously bitching about all the little people who stand between him and the plane is hysterical. In my family, we have one rule - anything for humor.  The question is not, should you say that, but was it funny.  Life is too short not to laugh, not to find the humor in every situation, whenever you can.  There is so much serious crap going on all the time (not to mention, spoiler alert, we're all going to die some day) why not take the chances to smile, chuckle or laugh out loud every chance you get.

As a formerly fat, currently Jewish person, I was not at all offended by anything he said in that post.  It was exaggeration of an experience for humorous effect - basically the very definition of humor.  What was important to me was - it was well-written and funny.  It was not mean-spirited or hateful (unlike much of the vitriol currently being hurled at Frankie).

Frankie was taking his time to go and do something to benefit someone else.  Did he do it solely for "selfless reasons?"  Of course not. No one does.  Mother Teresa and Gandhi were supremely selfish people - they served others because they wanted to, they felt compelled to and BECAUSE IT MADE THEM FEEL GOOD.  This notion that charity has to be done "unselfishly" is ridiculous.  Giving makes people feel good, helping others gives one purpose.  Anyone who gives of themselves for another is helping - and it is not for anyone else to judge whether one charity is more deserving of another or one do-gooder is superior to another.

I know that Big Brother creates heroes and villains and Frankie is this year's villain (personally, I am much more disturbed by the Gaslighting that Derrick has done to the young people in the house than anything Frankie has done). As an avowed Zach Rance fan, I hated Frankie for backstabbing Zach as much as the rest of  you.  But right now I'm much angrier at all the hatred he is getting for this funny if somewhat tasteless post and the fact that it forced me to do something I never thought I'd do.  I had to write something in support of Frankie J. Grande.  Oh, Rose!

*coined by https://twitter.com/LunaCee73 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Why Big Brother 16 Contestant Derrick May Be the Best...and Most Boring

There is no question that at about this point every year, fans of the CBS summer reality series Big Brother proclaim that this is the worst season ever.  This year is no exception.  With the eviction of fan favorites like Donny Thompson and Zach Rance, both of whom played the games with their hearts rather than their heads, there is a gaping hole in the soul of the show.  But what should save the season is the brainy play of 30-year-old police sergeant from Rhode Island, Derrick Levasseur.  Derrick has been masterminding every move made in the Big Brother house from jump street, yet his game play has not been entertaining or popular.

If the badge fits...For more on Derrick's gameplay click here.

Why is that?  Two words - jump street.  As in 21 Jump Street, the TV show (later movie franchise) about undercover cops.  Derrick is a former undercover cop and it is that skill set which has given him unprecedented power in the house and seems destined to put $500,000 worth of groceries in his young daughter's mouth.  So what is it about being an undercover cop that works so well in the Big Brother house?  And why does it not make for riveting television?

1.  The ability to blend in

The first and most important skill an undercover cop needs is the ability to blend into his or her surroundings.  Being outed as a cop can be a death sentence.  Whether it's posing as a teenager when you're years older (something fellow Houseguest Frankie Grande no doubt wishes he could do) or pretending to be a criminal or drug user, undercover cops have to be able to convince strangers of a made-up identity - a whole new persona that will seem completely real and natural.  Meryl Streep doesn't have her life on the line when she takes on a part, undercover cops very well may.

So the Derrick who walked into the Big Brother house is a creation, a manufactured persona designed to be nonthreatening.  He's a Parks and Recreations guy with a bunch of employees below him who helps paint hash-marks on the football field and keeps the red maples healthy.  He's married with a new baby (okay, that part seems to be true).  He's a nice guy.  Not good looking, like Cody Calafiore.  Not in great shape, like Caleb Reynolds and Devin Shepherd.  He's just Joe Schmoe, every man. 

He lets Caleb go on and on about his service in Iraq without ever letting Caleb or the rest of the house know that he also has dealt with dangerous, life-threatening situations including a fatal shooting. While Frankie drones on ad nauseum about his famous sister, his millions of followers, and his Broadway shows, Derrick just smiles and nods, pretending to be ol' boring daddy-o with no exciting stories to share.  He lets the other Houseguests take center stage as he fades into the background, the affable dad who likes puttering around on a lawnmower.  But because of this, he looks boring and uninteresting and his screen time lacks electricity. Zach could not strategize his way out of a paper bag, but he was watchable.  Derrick is dull as dishwater on the screen.

2.  The appearance of trustworthiness

An undercover cop is only successful if he manages to be accepted and trusted by those he's infiltrated.  Snitches get stitches, as the saying goes.  So it should come as no surprise that the word other Houseguests use most often to describe him is trustworthy.  Derrick is everyone's closest friend and confidante.  Victoria has poured her heart out to Derrick; no fewer than two other people are firmly convinced they have a final two deal with him.  He has never been on the block.  He has never been mentioned to go up on the block.

How has he managed this?  By keeping his mouth shut.  He doesn't rat out fellow Houseguests, so he can never be put in the middle of an argument.  You know the one way to look like you are never lying, never promise anything and never take responsibility for any decision.  Derrick is masterful at this.  He is constantly asking all his allies what they want and letting them know he'll go along with whatever they want.  If you promise nothing, you never have to break a promise.  If you never say what you want, you can never be called out when someone hears something contrary.

But because Derrick is considered so trustworthy, there are no fireworks when he's on the screen.  No one calls him out, no one gets mad at him.  Contrast this to the time that Zach told Derrick that Nicole told Victoria Rafaeli (phew!) about the five-person alliance that Derrick was in.  Victoria was devastated to learn that her closest ally had been lying to her all along.  Did that come back to bite him?  No.  Derrick immediately called a meeting to clear the air.  He did this to demonstrate how loyal and honest he is - he has nothing to hide. Instead, the focus was on Zach's lie, not the underlying truth (of the alliance).  So Victoria left feeling even more trusting in the man who had lied to her about his other alliance.  If she had felt betrayed and violated and had yelled at Derrick and stormed off, it would have made for good TV. But instead, she went right back to snuggling with her only true friend in the game.

3.  Make them think it was their idea

Derrick is a good listener and most people love hearing the sound of their own voice.  So they talk and he reflects back either supporting their decision or gently moving them in a different direction.  You will never hear Derrick say, let's vote out so-and-so next.  The same way an undercover cop can't be the one to suggest the illegal act, Derrick doesn't overtly make the move - he makes his allies think they are in charge of every decision.  He tells them any array of possibilities is fine with him (and sneaks in the one he really wants without letting on).  He tells them, repeatedly, that he has their back and will support whatever they want to do, and they don't even notice when his alternative suggestion (which they're free to ignore) is what he really wants.  And they don't realize later that when they take that alternative, they are doing his bidding.

To be a good undercover cop, according to Derrick in his pre-show interview with Reality Relapse, you have to learn to adapt to those around you. "Learn their likes and dislikes, their motives, their weaknesses."  Once you know this, you can more easily manipulate them.  Big Brother masterminds from the past - Dan, Dr. Will, Evel Dick - let the Houseguests as well as the home viewer know what they wanted and how they planned to get it.  This year, Derrick is as big a mystery to us as he is to the Houseguests.  Ten weeks in, do we really know who he plans to take to the final two?  Do we know what he plans to do this week or next?

Since Derrick is playing the game of making everyone around him do all the work and is not sharing with the viewers what his ultimate plan is, we are disengaged.  When other Houseguests scurry with a new plan to "shake things up," we know not to get excited or invested.  Ultimately, what will happen is whatever Derrick decides will happen.  We know that no big moves will be made unless he approves them, and nothing will keep him from running things.  The only mystery left is who will be sitting next to him in the final two and how he'll get them to think it was their idea to take him there. 

4.  Be a good liar

Lying has to come as easily as breathing to an undercover cop, or he won't be doing much of the latter for very long.  Derrick is an expert.  He weaves stories out of whole cloth, adding details, with the effortless ease of a former Enron exec.  But this is where his largest disconnect with the viewers comes in.  Derrick is not just lying to the Houseguests, he's lying to the television audience.  And that is a no no.

Once Derrick was joined with Donny and Frankie as Team America, he has not only been playing Derrick the Leslie Knope of Central Falls, RI, he's also been playing loyal TA member.  He stares right into the camera, talking directly to us, the viewers who voted him there, and lies to us.  He tells us that he wanted to carry out a Team America mission to cast a hinky vote, but Donny wouldn't go along.  He tells us that he would have tried to save Donny with the last mission, but Frankie wouldn't go along.  He tells us that he wants to keep Team America together and yet did nothing to keep Donny from being voted out.

A good liar, like Dr. Will Kirby, is entertaining when they let us the viewer in on their lies.  Dr. Will didn't lie to us by, for example, pretending to like a contestant that he knew the public liked (as Derrick did twice, after he heard the crowd roars for Zach and Donny).  Dr. Will accepted his dark side and shared his true feelings.  Derrick pretends to be the nice guy, the loyal Team America player who just wants to make America proud but is thwarted by his fellow team members.  He'll throw Donny and Frankie under the bus to the viewers, who can see what's really going on, and doesn't bat an eye.  He'll orchestrate Zach and Donny's exits, then tell US that he's sad to see them go.  That's not endearing, it's scary.  And, frankly, not fun to watch.

5.  Be smarter than the people you've infiltrated

The final reason that Derrick is the best and least interesting contestant this show has seen is that he has been given the weakest set of opponents yet.  The so-called super fans (Nicole Franzel and Christine Brecht) have zero clue what he's doing and have done very little to control their game.  When Nicole was Head of Household and could make a move, she failed by not nominating two members of the large alliance (why sacrifice Jocasta who would NEVER have voted out Nicole?).  

The Big Brother 16 Houseguests have no clue how to play the game.  All-guys' alliances are a staple of Big Brother and this year the Bomb Squad started out that way (with six of the eight men), until Devin decided to add two women to make a half-a-house alliance.  Joey Van Pelt tried to form an all-girl alliance only to have the girls immediately shut down the idea and spill it to the guys.  Had the girls gone along with the plan and kept it quiet, someone like Christine would have been in a great position, straddling two powerful groups.  Instead, she's now low man on the totem pole.

Not only are the Houseguests not smart enough to play a good game of Big Brother, they're not smart enough to pick up the many clues Derrick has dropped about his true identity.  After Frankie's big reveal about how he'd been hiding his sister's identity and his social media fame, there were of course rumblings again about whether everyone was who they claimed to be.  Derrick actually said, "most of us" are who we say we are.  No one picked that up.

No one noticed when he talked about peoples' motives and their profile, when he jokingly put a badge around his neck and said he was a cop, when he organized a neighborhood watch, when he seemed to have all the cop lingo down pat.  Nope.  They continued to be suspicious that the guy with the Duck Dynasty beard and a drawl slower than molasses in February was a college professor, but the street-sounding jamoke with confidence and a penchant for cop slang couldn't be lying about being a Parks and Rec person.  Even though he admitted to NEVER HAVING WATCHED THE SHOW OF THE SAME NAME.

[K]Nope, no red flags there. 

Before going into the Big Brother house, Derrick spoke to Reality Relapse about how his undercover past would help him in the game: "I worked in undercover for a long time where I had to not talk about things, so I'm used to being confidential. ... I've been in situations where if I make a mistake I could end up dead."  So far, he's made no apparent mistakes and is well-positioned to make the biggest score of his life.  It just may not be all that exciting for the rest of us.

***For more on Derrick's gameplay check out this blog post from Krazillia's Place.***